12 Tips for Hiking with Your Dog

by Jean Hofve, DVM

One of the best things about sharing your life with a dog is always having a buddy available for hiking! But before you hit the trail, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Make sure you’re both in shape for your planned hike. The first hike of the season probably shouldn’t be 10 miles, uphill both ways! Your dog will follow you anywhere, but he can’t tell you when he’s getting tired or if his paws are sore. Start with shorter treks to help your pal  prepare for more strenuous activities.
  • Be aware of the laws and regulations in your hiking area. They are there to protect you, your dog, the wildlife, and other hikers. We are fortunate in Boulder to have mountain parks where dogs can be off-leash (as long as they are under voice control). But this is not the case everywhere, though, so please be considerate.
  • Make sure you have the right collar or harness, and a sturdy leash. Studies have shown that excessive pressure from a neck collar can damage a dog’s trachea (windpipe), so a walking harness may be a better choice for dogs that pull. Small dogs do exceptionally well with supportive harnesses such as the 3-in-1 Vest Harness that also doubles as a secure seatbelt for car travels.
  • Carry a few clean-up bags, in case your dog gets the urge to eliminate in the great outdoors.
  • Bring water and a travel bowl for your dog; dehydration can be a serious problem.
  • Sunscreen may be needed for dogs with white fur around their face and ears. Areas where the fur is thin and the skin is whitish or pink can get sunburned, so be careful about excess sun exposure. You can use a human sunscreen or sunblock product (but be sure to clean it off when you get home), or get one especially made for pets, such as Solar Rx, which is green, vegan and chemical free.

  • Know what to do in an emergency, such as a cut paw pad (which is more common than you might think!). Consider carrying a pet first-aid kit. Keep in mind where the nearest ranger station or emergency veterinary hospital are located. Program a poison-control hotline and your veterinarian’s contact info into your cell phone. (Note: there may be a charge for using some hotlines.)
    • Kansas State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital 785-532-5679
    • ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (888) 426-4435
    • The National Animal Poison Control Center 1-900-680-0000 or 1- 800-548-2423
    • Angell Animal Poison Control Hotline at 1-877-2ANGEL
  • If your dog has a short nose (such as Pugs, Boston terriers, bulldogs, and Pekingese), try to avoid hiking during the heat of the day.  These dogs have less surface area for heat exchange through their nose and mouth—the primary cooling mechanism in dogs. The same goes for extra-furry breeds such as Malemutes, Old English sheepdogs, or Collies, who can get overheated.
  • For dogs who love to stick their noses in every nook and cranny, eye protection such as Doggles will prevent damage by thorns and other hazards.
  • When you get home, always check your dog over for burrs, foxtails, debris, and ticks (even if you’ve used a repellent). Foxtails in particular can work their way through the skin and cause abscesses and other serious injuries. Don’t neglect the paws—small stones and other debris can get caught between the toes. If you’re doing a long hike or one in very rugged country, consider canine footwear, such as Pawz Biodegradable Natural Dog Boots,or Ruff Wear Boots.
  • Help keep your dog in top condition with a great natural diet, and consider joint support supplements –even in younger dogs—to help prevent and repair damage to joint surfaces.

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The articles and information in the Holistic Healthcare Library are presented for informational purposes only and are not intended as an endorsement of any product. The information is not intended to be a substitute for visits to your local veterinarian. Instead, the content offers the reader information and opinions written by our staff, guest authors, and/or veterinarians concerning animal health issues and animal care products.

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